far too many thoughts on why DWJ is better than JKR, was Re: DWJ in Israeli newspaper

meparks at mtholyoke.edu meparks at mtholyoke.edu
Thu Feb 19 12:40:16 EST 2004

Quoting Abe Gross <argross at bigpond.net.au>:

> Ika wrote:
> > and I feel a bit bad about contributing to that. It's not a very helpful
> > comparison, anyway: like comparing Antonia Forest's school stories to
> Enid
> > Blyton's. Same genre, but completely different in every other way.
> I feel that in many ways, when you've read and deeply appreciated DWJ, it
> can be easy to dismiss Rowling. When I read the first Potter book, long
> before it became popular, I felt genuine delight, and commented to a friend
> that it reminded me somewhat of DWJ! I think there's a lot more in Rowling
> than immediately meets the eye, but at the same time, I also agree that DWJ
> is still so much more subtle and complex, and wise about people and life.
> I'm not sure what I'm trying to say--I keep changing my mind! Sometimes I
> agree with you that comparing Rowling and DWJ is like comparing apples and
> oranges and ought not to be attempted; other times I feel that it's more a
> matter of degree, and that DWJ is just so much *more* than Rowling. For me,
> there's this odd incongruency: the later Potter books are indeed more
> complex and "dark" than the earlier ones, so they *should* seem more
> DWJ-like, but on the contrary, I enjoyed the earlier ones so much more, and
> as I said, they actually reminded me of DWJ as well! The later ones *don't*
> particularly remind me of DWJ. I'm not sure what to conclude from this,
> except that I'm not completely willing to wipe Rowling off as impossibly
> inferior to DWJ (though I still think she is!).

Oh, me too!  This is almost exactly what I wanted to say--only that I don't 
think that the later books are at all more like DWJ.  They're dark, yes, but 
they're also hormonal, and not as well controlled (I loved Goblet of Fire and 
decidedly did not love Order of the Phoenix), and they are more complex, but 
only socially (?).  That is, one of the things I love most about DWJ is her 
ability to confound you with this really elegant complexity that suddenly makes 
all the book make a little more sense (oddly, this is exactly the thing that 
bugs one of my best friends about her a bit).  Another example of this _kind_ 
of thing (though it's done in such a different way I almost shy from citing it) 
is Madeleine L'Engle's "Swiftly Tilting Planet," in which all of the sudden at 
the end _everything_ makes this gorgeous sense (though hers has a much more 
planned, structured feeling than does DWJ's, which usually feels effortless, 
subtle, and downright magical ;)).  Rowling has made her whole plot more 
complex, but she lacks DWJ's gift to make it all make sense in the end.

I think the first book had definite echoes of DWJ--Harry's living situation 
reminded me _strongly_ of "Dogsbody," which is why I bought the book back when 
the first two copies came into the Barnes and Noble where I then worked.  But 
(I've said this before, I know, but I really believe it) the part where she 
lost that was when Harry got on a broom and could fly intuitively, like a bird, 
a wizard, and an insider.  A DWJ character almost never has such obvious, 
socially acceptible skills, and that's the thing that really sets JK Rowling 
apart: she's not writing much about underdogs and misfits.  If DWJ were writing 
this series, either Hermione or Neville would be the main character.  So I 
don't think it's the complexity of plot that should make JKR seem like DWJ--
it's the missing complexity of character that seperates them, even more than 
the fact that JKR can be heavy-handed sometimes.  Which she _must_ be doing on 
purpose at points.

And while I do think that some of her characters have gotten more complex (see: 
Neville, Hermione, Sirius (though I didn't _like_ his new complexity), Fred and 
George in Order of the Phoenix), some really, _really_ haven't: Harry, Ron, and 
Draco in OotP.  I can't _stand_ how she writes Draco--in a DWJ book, he'd end 
up at least slightly reformed, or if he was going to be staying evil he 
wouldn't ooze it quite that much, but I'm a devout Harry/Draco slasher so I'm 
of course quite biased in my belief that Draco isn't evil, he's just written 
that way ;).

And while her ambiguously evil Snape--who was not immediately made all fluffy 
bunnies and fuzzy pink slippers after he was revealed to not be quite so bad--
appeals to me more, I'm not at all sure how he's going to end up (that is, if 
he's been exposed as a spy against Voldemort, I'm not sure I believe he's going 
to pull that off again without turning out to be evil after all in the end).

So yeah: I think that if you could go inside a Harry Potter book, a la The Eyre 
Affair, you'd find the off duty characters behaving in totally different ways 
than they do in the book.  I would not say the same of DWJ.

lizzie ;)

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